By STEVE DOUGLAS
Bryson DeChambeau has been pushing the limits of golf with his quest for increased distance off the tee.
So the game’s “mad scientist” is flattered that rule-makers are proposing changes to regulations in an effort to control how far big hitters like him can launch a golf ball.
“I think I might be pushing them a little bit,” a smiling DeChambeau said Wednesday. “I don’t know if anybody’s pushed them like — and I’m not really trying to push. … I think that I’m willing to try things that people are not OK with trying.
“When you go to the fringe limits of the rules,” he added, “there will be conversations about it, for sure.”
The USGA and the R&A on Tuesday announced three proposals and six areas of interest involving the modern game. This comes one year after their “Distance Insights Project” revealed a steady increase in distance for more than 100 years — with average gains of about 30 yards by PGA Tour players in the last 25 years — and golf courses that keep expanding.
Rory McIlroy, speaking from the Phoenix Open, said the governing bodies were looking at the game through a “tiny lens.”
“What they’re trying to do is change something that pertains to 0.1% of the golfing community; 99.9% of the people play this game play for enjoyment, for entertainment. They don’t need to be told what ball or clubs to use,” McIlroy said. “We have to make the game as easy and approachable as possible for the majority of golfers.”
McIlroy said he thought the distance project has been “a huge waste of time and money.”
“Because that money that it’s cost to do this report could have been way better distributed to getting people into the game, introducing young kids to the game, introducing minorities to the game,” he said.
Intent on not targeting player-related factors such as improved athleticism, the governing bodies are instead looking closer at golf equipment as they seek solutions to limiting distances.
Among the possibilities is a local rule that could limit the length of the shaft to no more than 46 inches, down from 48 inches. DeChambeau had been testing a 48-inch driver, though he has yet to use it in competition.
“It’s funny, I’m sure there’s a lot of excitement about me having a potentially controversial thought on it, but I don’t,” said DeChambeau, speaking on a video call from Saudi Arabia, where he is competing in the Saudi International on the European Tour starting Thursday. “I think it’s a really cool thought process. It’s a little flattering, in a sense, because I did talk about that 48-inch driver for so long, and it just didn’t work for me the way I wanted it to.
“As it’s played out, I think it’s really cool to see that there’s some change off of the conversations that I’ve had.”
The American has added more than 40 pounds of muscle and mass in the last year — through changes to his diet and hard work in the gym — to enable him to overpower golf courses, like he did when he won his first major, a six-shot victory in the U.S. Open at Winged Foot in September.
For him, the most important thing is that the rule-change proposals do not remove the “human element.”
“It’s about making sure that you’re playing with the relative integrity of back in the day,” he said. “People weren’t using 48-inch shafts a long time ago, and so they are really trying to make it similar to back in the day in a sense while having a modern flair to it obviously with the graphite shafts and all that.”
McIlroy said he would not object to a local rule that would apply at the elite level in limiting technology, or what he said would be “some sort of bifurcation.”
“But we are such a tiny portion of golf,” he said. “Golf is way bigger than the professional game. It’s the other stuff that really matters, and that’s the stuff they need to concentrate on.”
DeChambeau spoke to other technology — his oxygen intake.
The U.S. Open champion was favored to win the Masters in November but fell away after complaining of feeling dizzy and something being wrong with his stomach.
After taking many tests, he said it was discovered that he “wasn’t utilizing enough oxygen when it came into my system” and that storing too much carbon dioxide was constricting his blood vessels.
DeChambeau said he is learning breathing techniques.
“I got an oxygen machine and have been working on controlling my breathing every single night before I go to bed and in the morning when I wake up,” he said. “It doesn’t scare me at all since I know what’s going on. I’ll continually monitor it.”
Steve Douglas is at https://twitter.com/sdouglas80